A pianist and composer known for his emotive improvisational jazz performances
James was born in Whangarei in the far north of New Zealand. He studied piano from the age of six and it was apparent he would follow a career in music.
Upon leaving school he studied Jazz Performance at the Wellington Conservatorium of Music, which was based at the old Fever Hospital in Mt Victoria. Many of the musicians that colour the New Zealand music scene graduated through the same doors, including Darren Mathiassen (Shapeshifter),
Rio Hemopo and Rikki Gooch (Trinity Roots), Rick Cranson (Little Bushman) Toby Laing & Joe Lindsay (Fat Freddy’s Drop) and Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation).
A skilful jazz pianist, James’ piano chops are featured on the latest Trinity Roots album Citizen. His McCoy Tyner-esque licks flavour the title track. He can also be heard on the album Mantis – The Music of Drew Menzies, with arrangements by well known composer John Psathas, which also features Reuben Bradley, Matt Penman, Roger Manins and the New Zealand String Quartet.
Not limited to jazz music, James plays and composes for one of Australias most loved hip hop bands, Bliss n Eso. He has also toured and played festivals with the band for the past 4 years and can be heard on their most recent album Circus in the Sky that debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts and went Platinum with over 70,000 copies sold in Australia alone. (Check out the Bliss n Eso – Beatbox Band Jam video below from the 2014 Circus under the Stars Tour, filmed at the Sydney Domain.)
James has also played for many Kiwi artists and bands including Hollie Smith, The Recloose Live Band, Lisa Tomlins, Iva Lamkum, Rio Hemopo, Bella Kalolo and Trinity Roots.
As a performer, James’ speed, skill and melodic expression and intuition has been likened to pianists Oscar Peterson, Kenny Kirkland and at times Keith Jarret. He is a consummate professional on the bandstand, and his boundless energy and spontaneity are apparent, making James a pleasure to play with, watch and listen to.